Alexandrites: Gemstones That Magically Change Color

Updated on November 6, 2019
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green enjoys unique items and stunning collectibles and she shares her discoveries with readers.

Color-changing gemstones: Emerald by day, ruby by night.
Color-changing gemstones: Emerald by day, ruby by night. | Source

Can you find a gemstone that changes color? Absolutely. Alexandrites are actual color-changing stones, not to be confused with the more common mood rings.

Alexandrites display a spectrum of colors, usually changing from green to blue in the daytime to pink, purple or red at night. These stones change colors under different lighting conditions, so your stone may surprise you by morphing into a previously unseen color if you find yourself in a different location or under different lighting.

I have one stone that turns a striking emerald green, goes a smoky grey in some stores, turns ice blue under other lights, and turns purple or red under lighting at night. This particular alexandrite is 1 carat and shows a wide color variation.

Not to be confused with mood rings, alexandrite stones offer a world of fascinating color changes, dependent upon light conditions.

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Lovely hues of green and purple in polished stones.
Lovely hues of green and purple in polished stones.
Lovely hues of green and purple in polished stones. | Source

How Do Alexandrites Change Color?

Alexandrites change colors because of a unique and rare chemical composition. They are actually chrysoberyl. Chrysoberyl contains iron and titanium. Alexandrite contains chromium, and it is this element that contributes to the startling color changes. It is only chrysoberyl displaying distinct color changes that is called alexandrite.

Color change also is influenced by waves or type of light and by the way the mineral absorbs light. The way the stones are cut is also considered a factor.

Mohs Hardness

Fast Fact

Chromium is the element that makes for the color change.

Raw chrysoberyl.
Raw chrysoberyl. | Source

Where Were Alexandrites Discovered?

  • Alexandrite crystals were discovered in emerald mines in the Urals. Russia was the main supplier of this stone.
  • They were also discovered in the 1980s in Brazil. These stones had a good color change but were not as green as the Russian variety.
  • Alexandrite also comes from Sri Lanka but the hues aren't considered on par with the Russian alexandrite.
  • Alexandrite specimens of outstanding quality have also come from Tanzania.

How Were Alexandrites Named?

The stones show green to red, the colors of old Imperialist Russia. Interestingly, alexandrite was discovered on the day the tzar (Alexander II) came of age; thus, alexandrite became the stone of tsarist Russia.

Even in its raw state, chrysoberyl is beautiful.
Even in its raw state, chrysoberyl is beautiful. | Source
Note the stunning changes seen in this raw stone.
Note the stunning changes seen in this raw stone.

Alexandrite's Early Uses

Alexandrite jewelry was produced and became highly sought after. Alexandrite was:

  • set into Russian jewelry,
  • used in Victorian jewelry from England
  • and set into gemstone rings by Tiffany's.

Master gemologist George Frederick Kunz was fascinated with alexandrite and its incredible color-changing properties.

Popular Alexandrite Jewelry Items

  • earrings
  • pendants
  • rings

As the light changes, so does alexandrite. You have to see it to believe it.
As the light changes, so does alexandrite. You have to see it to believe it. | Source

How Fast Do Alexandrites Change Color?

In most cases, the change is instantaneous; however, at times, you can see hints of colors appearing in your stone. Different alexandrites change to different colors, so if you are looking for a stone to turn from green to red, you will want to ensure that this is what you are getting. Alexandrites may go from pink to blue, or they may change from purple to greenish.

Some stones show wide color changes, while others show fewer color changes. Much depends on the quality and the chemical composition of the stones.

Watch the Color Change

Did You Know?

While alexandrites often change from green to purple, you can find a stone with different colors or additional ones.

Want an Inexpensive Alexandrite Ring?

Alexandrites are highly prized and as such can fetch a high price. So the question begs to be asked: how does one get a quality gem with good color change without breaking the bank?

  • One way to acquire a beautiful alexandrite ring at a fraction of the cost is to order your polished stone first. Your alexandrite can later be put into a setting.
  • It is possible to order a smaller stone in a ring, which is another option--especially if you can't wait to wear it and enjoy all the color changes. The main thing is the quality of the stone and the color changes and if the setting isn't to your liking, this can be changed later.

How to Choose an Alexandrite

Alexandrite rings are a popular item. Wearers love watching how their rings change color under different lighting conditions.
Alexandrite rings are a popular item. Wearers love watching how their rings change color under different lighting conditions.

A Word About Lab-Grown Gems

  • A lab-grown authentic gem will be free of inclusions and impurities and "fogginess," grown under optimal conditions, and may be considered a real gemstone, having the identical chemical composition as a stone that was formed in nature.
  • Make sure your stone has been grown from a seed crystal and is considered an actual alexandrite and not an imitation.

Did You Know?

Alexandrite is the birthstone for June and the gem for the 55th wedding anniversary.

Buyer Beware: Cautions When Purchasing an Alexandrite via an Auction

If you decide to get your alexandrite through an online auction, it is possible to acquire a beautiful ring at a fraction of the cost, keeping the following factors in mind:

  • Make sure your alexandrite stone actually changes color. Some stones advertised as alexandrites make use of the name to describe the color, not the actual color changing gemstone. Read the description and ask for photos showing the color change.
  • Ensure that your stone isn't a slighter color-changing chrysoberyl that wouldn't grade out by a gemologist and likely wouldn't have the clear color changes that an alexandrite would.
  • Watch the auctions and become thoroughly acquainted with the different-colored stones that are available. Some look like brightly-colored gumdrops, which, it should be obvious, are not indicative of the real deal.
  • Other stones look dull and dark, such as the muddy-looking purple stones that look questionable and only have a slight color change. These may be touted as alexandrite but... buyer beware.
  • Some gemstones are described as synthetic alexandrite but are actually synthetic corundum laced with vanadium.This alexandrite-like material has been around for many decades. It shows a characteristic purplish color but there is never any green.
  • Check the reputation of the seller.
  • Get an feel for price ranges and what a deal on an alexandrite is before you purchase.
  • There are two very good reasons to buy in your own country:
  1. I sent off for a loose stone from a different country and the buyer swore there was good color change. The photos seemed to support this. When I got my stone, there was zero color change. I exposed it to all kinds of lighting conditions. Nope. I put in a complaint and another loose stone was sent my way. Again I was assured it changed color. It didn't. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals who count on the fact that if you are in a different country, you won't pursue matters when you find out you've been had.
  2. Even if you manage to score an authentic stone, if you buy from a different country, the duty charges can be considerable. They can in fact, almost double your cost.

An auction can be a legitimate way to find an alexandrite. I found two beautiful stones but I didn't buy impulsively. I watched the auctions, learned about alexandrites, developed a trained eye for color changes, and bid carefully, setting a ceiling amount, in my quest for a beautiful alexandrite gemstone and an alexandrite ring. Each stone exhibits different hues but both are beautiful and ever-mysterious.

An alexandrite is ever fascinating as you never tire of the color changes. If you are really fortunate, you will find a stone with impressive color changes.

Harder to Find in Canada, Available in the States

A good place to start your search is in the U.S. As touched on, alexandrites are mined and available from different countries but if you are shopping online, the U.S. is a good starting point.

Amazon offers some natural alexandrite stonesas well as a nice selection of lab created alexandrite in earrings, rings, pendants and bracelets. Always check that your potential jewelry item has the color change and decide whether you want a natural stone or a good-quality lab created specimen.

If You Own an Alexandrite, You Are Fortunate Indeed

Alexandrites differ stone to stone. If you decide to bring one home, you'll be rewarded with a unique gem that displays intriguing color changes for years to come.

Do You Own an Alexandrite?

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Questions & Answers

  • Can natural Alexandrite change from pretty pale green to light purple?

    I can answer from experience with my stones. One goes from purple to green as the day progresses, then to fuchsia in some kinds of light, such as fluorescent lighting, plus so many other lovely hues in-between: pale blue, purplish-blue, dark blue, smoky and a dark grey, a bright emerald green.

    The other stone changes from deep purple to deep aquamarine to intense fuchsia. While not showing as many different shadings of colors, this stone is a beauty because of the deepness of the colors.

    Alexandrites show a different range of colors depending on the stone, its chemical properties and how it's been cut, so it's important to find out what actual colors your stone will display. Some stones will show yellowish or brownish hues. Many buyers seek stones that turn a deep ruby red. Much depends on buyer preferences for color.

  • Do alexandrite stones run black?

    No, Alexandrites don't usually show a black coloration. Sometimes a smoky grey color will manifest.

© 2009 Athlyn Green


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    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      3 years ago from West Kootenays

      Sue, alexandrites come in a range of colors and the stones differ, depending on the light. Each of mine is different and shows different color changes.

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      3 years ago from West Kootenays

      Kate, try it in different light. That is usually what will trigger color change.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have an old alexandrite that used to change from a beautiful dark purple to a green but will not change anymore is there any thing I can do to get it chaning again?

    • Suzie Bell profile image

      Suzie Bell 

      6 years ago from Narragansett, Rhode Island

      Sorry about this just signed in through Facebookhad and I am unable to view the 2 comments from above question regardingthe stone that is purple during the day and green at night...

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have a question regarding emerald by day ruby by night....mine is complete opposite....purple during the day and unbelievable green at night..any help would be appreciated.....thx in advance

    • Laura Schneider profile image

      Laura Schneider 

      6 years ago from Minnesota, USA

      Awesome article about my favorite stone (and it's even my birthstone--June!). I used to think I knew a lot about alexandrite (I own several great pieces and a few so-so pieces) until I learned twice as much from your article--thanks for the information! Keep up the good work! Voted awesome, up, useful, and interesting (and would've voted more if there were more relevant categories). Following you now... Cheers!


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